What I’m working on: Personal assistants, networking groups

I’m attempting to get back from Indianapolis right now, and am experiencing a few flight delays. Fortunately, my speech last night went well, and I was able to visit family too. I “test-drove” my sister-in-law’s Toyota Sienna. I’m still pondering getting a minivan, but I’m having trouble getting my head around the idea.

In the meantime, I’m working on a few pieces for next week. First: personal assistants. Have you — or anyone you know — ever hired one? What does this person do? For how many hours? Does it make you more productive?

Second, I’d also like to speak with people who started their own networking groups. It’s often difficult to find a group that is focused on exactly what you’re interested in. One way around that is to start your own, though obviously that takes time too. Why did you decide to start your own group? Any advice for others looking at doing the same thing?

Finally, Fast Company launched a new section devoted to working parents, called “Second Shift.” I’m over there with an essay on “One Week Without the Kids.


18 thoughts on “What I’m working on: Personal assistants, networking groups

  1. Hello –
    I’ve started my own networking group in the publishing industry. Let me know if you’d be interested in talking!

  2. I completely and utterly ADORE my Sienna, Laura. You should get one! They are incredibly practical for a family with multiple children, not that expensive, and get way better gas mileage than SUVs.

    Also, the scooped-out area in the back makes packing for trips a breeze.

    Someone ran into my van in a parking lot before vacation last year, and I had to use a rental Caravan and then Town and Country, and my soul! Those two vans were just terrible compared to my Sienna. Bells and whistles, yes, but the design was terrible, they had way less space inside, and the performance was pretty awful too.

    Anyway, strong vote for the Sienna here. 😉

    1. @The Frugal Girl – I was impressed by the storage space when I created the back row seats in my SIL’s car. She has 2 kids so they normally have those down and use all the back as storage space. Ah yes, I know there are a million reasons to get a Sienna. My only reason not to is my ego…

    2. We love our Toyota Sienna. We’ve had it for a couple of years now. It’s much better than the Dodge Caravan or the Honda Odyssey that we had before.

  3. I used to work in a collection agency and had the chance to work with an attorney,although I wasn’t her personal assistant(I was the receptionist),my previous coworker does some errands for her,set up her appointments with the clients,the courts,talk to judges and attorneys etc.Sometimes,he needed to stay overtime because they had to go somewhere for a trial and do a lot of paperwork.

  4. We love our Mazda5! Sort of the mini-minivan. No bells, no whistles- sort of the kind of car I grew up riding around in. You have to open the close the sliding doors yourself, for heavens sake.

    But I love it. It’s all the space we need, nothing more and nothing less. Fun to drive (we have a stick shift) and I love sliding doors so I’m not hitting my kids in the head with a swinging car door anymore.

  5. I’ve been thinking about hiring a personal assistant on a part-time basis, but trying to think of how to frame it up, then to find someone I trust with that sort of personal information. I’d be interested in hearing more about this.

  6. Re personal assistants.
    I’m in academia, and so I’m always expected to do a lot with too little. When I got a management role that came with an extra bit in my paycheck each month, I started putting that amount into an account at work and paying for 5 hours of help per week. The beauty of working at a university is that there are plenty of students around to apply for the position and it counts as research experience for them that might be good when applying for grad school.
    I have the student do all sorts of things for me–organising my reading lists on the library website, doing starter research on new projects or focused research on things that’ll take a while (e.g. ‘I remember reading fact X once, can you find a source for it?’), coding linguistic data (which will build in skills they’ve learned in my classes), handling registration for a conference I organised, etc.

    Sometimes, like in the case of the conference registration, I can pay him out of other budgets at work. But the rest of the time it’s coming out of my pocket–albeit through a university account, so that I can be sure that everything’s legal, taxes are being paid, etc. But I’ve found several benefits to paying for this:
    1. Having him doing the easier tasks leaves my time/mind free to do the challenging ones.
    2. Because I’ve promised him 5 hours of work per week, I have to be organised enough to make sure that there’s work for him to do. It makes me get a move on projects that I’m procrastinating on, and makes me think beyond ‘what needs to be done today’ to ‘what needs to be done’.
    3. I keep my desk neater because I know someone else will be using it on Friday.
    4. I get to talk about ‘my assistant’. 🙂

  7. I had a personal assistant back when I was running a small online ecommerce site. She handled customer service and a lot of the bookkeeping tasks. She also got to pick out new books for our store. She loved talking to customers while I was hard-pressed to find the time. It worked beautifully for both of us – she was able to work from home and work around her kids’ school schedule and I was able to offload the tasks I didn’t enjoy or didn’t have time for. I miss these days! I wish I had an assistant now.

  8. Re: the minivan. I bought a brand new Honda Odyssey Touring last year, had it for 2 months, HATED it, and got a Lexus SUV instead. I couldn’t be happier with my choice. 🙂 Minivans are most definitely not for everyone!

    1. @Rebekah- I have an SUV now, but getting someone into the back seat is pretty inconvenient. I’m looking for cars with captain seats in the middle row, I think.

  9. I’ve had a personal assistant for 18 months now. Yes, I have to think my projects out ahead of time and have them ready for her. But running my own business, I have to plan ahead anyway-I’m responsible for it all. She remembers everything I don’t and pays for her salary every month in prepping work for me so I essentially work faster! We’ve tripled our amount of work we can process and earnings as well. It goes along with the business sense, do the job that makes you the money.

    Did I mention she makes a lunch run, too?

    1. @Denise- wow, that sounds awesome! Especially when you are running your own business, work and personal gets blurred, and since everything does wind up on your plate, having someone to help out helps a lot. You can also see clearly that she’s earning her salary!

  10. One of the threads in the hilarious book “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is about a virtual personal assistant. Just in case you were looking for related entertaining fiction 🙂

    I am firmly anti-minivan for myself though I will grudgingly admit they are very functional especially with more kids and/or grandparents, etc riding along. I was so relieved when the second carseat fit just fine into my tiny Audi A3. I plan to drive it until it falls apart around me 🙂

  11. Hi Laura,
    I started my own networking group and would be happy to talk with you about it. It originally consisted solely of book editors but I have expanded it to include other publishing professionals.
    Kim Bookless

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